Major revision of ISO 14001 coming up: what is new in ISO 14001:2015?

Major revision of ISO 14001 coming up: what is new in ISO 14001:2015?

To the article

This information may not be up to date. Please refer to our latest article for the current state of things or subscribe to our newsletter (in the right sidebar) to remain updates automatically.

To the article

Over 300,000 companies worldwide have implemented ISO 14001, the market-leading certification-system for environmental-management systems.  The popularity of ISO 14001 is a result of the continuous efforts of the committee to revise and update the standard, in keeping with current ecological, political and social developments.

With the last revision dating back to 2009, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has  announced the next version for 2015 and recently provided an insight into the changes by publishing a so-called „Committee Draft“. As your partner for certification of management systems we have analyzed the essential modifications and would like to provide you with a first impression.

The Committee started the revision process in February 2012 and expects to complete it by January 2015. After its publication, there will be a transition period of one year. In order for organizations to be able to integrate the new requirements into their existing EMS, we recommend organizations to familiarize themselves with the upcoming standard as soon as possible.

General Changes

The first crucial change concerns the structure of the ISO-Standard. The standard was written along the lines of the so-called „High Level Strucure“, which will gradually be introduced as the main structure for all ISO-standards. When it comes to the integration of multiple standards, this unified structure will considerably facilitate the implementation process.

 The „High Level Structure“

  1. Scope
  2. Normative References
  3. Terms and Definitions
  4. Context of the Organization
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance Evaluation
  10. Improvement

The general direction of the changes already becomes visible in the updated list of terms and definitions (Chapter 3). Three new concepts have been added: “supply chain“, „value chain“ and „product life cycle“. Taken together, these three terms are indicative of a broadened perspective upon the responsibility of companies, which now extends beyond the physical and legal boundaries of a company. It thus includes all environmental aspects in the influence sphere of a company, starting with the extraction of resources and including the entire life cycle of a product.

This broadened understanding of responsibility reflects a political development that has already had an impact on EU-policy and the laws and regulations of its member states. In Germany, this comprehensive perspective on environmental impact informed the revision of the German recycling management and waste law (Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz KrWG) in 2012. The concept of the ‘ecological footprint’ as introduced by M. Wackernagel an W. Rees in 1994 can be considered the academic counterpart of this development.

On the structural level, a separate section on preventive measures is significantly absent. The new standard no longer thinks of preventive measures as a separate topic, but rather as a central component of all environmental-related activities.

Another general change concerns the procedure to determine confomity of the management-system with the ISO-standard. The control and evaluation of conformity is to become a continuous task, in order to prevent non-conformities in the earliest possible stage.

Finally, small and and medium sized companies will be happy to learn that the committee has gone to great lengths to improve the readability and user-friendliness of the standard.

comparison dqs cfs 9001 2008 2015

DQS CFS has prepared a tentative comparison of the two versions ISO 14001:2004 and the current CD2 issue. Feel free to download the document here.

[wpdm_file id=11]

Changes in practice

For most companies, adopting the new criteria should not pose significant problems. Many of the changes were already implicitly present in the current version of the standard and have now been articulated more formally and specifically in the upcoming version. These changes include:

  • The impact of external factors and of the context of the organization upon environmental goals has gained significance. Organizations will be expected to systematically take these into account
  • The implementation of an EMS is the full responsibility of top management. Top management will be expected to determine quantitative data for the strategic planning of its core business in relation to the environment.
  • As far as environmental policy is concerned, organizations should not only commit to the reduction of negative influence upon the environment, but also aspire to have positive impact. Thus, a successful EMS not only aims at an environmental status-quo, but works to actively improve environmental conditions.
  • In the evaluation process, product lifecycles need to be identified, but for now an appropriate evaluation-system is not a criteria of the standard.
  • In the section on regulatory requirements, the topic of self-commitments is clearly more emphasized. The implementation of self-commitments is voluntary and could be put into practice by company-specific arrangements with customers, trade-associations or NGOs as an effective instrument representing the company’s strong profile in environmental issues.
  • The wider scope of the environmental management system is also reflected in the requirements on environmental goals. Beside the internal-, the external criteria play a major role including an adequate documentation and evaluation-system.
  • The requirements on environmental performance have also become more specific. Organizations will have to specifiy their performance in terms of quantitative data. The use  of DIN EN ISO 14031 (evaluation of the  environmental-achievement) and DIN EN ISO 14044 (ecobalances) as well as a combination with the ISO standard 50001 (Energy management systems) is recommended for this purpose.
  • During the planning and control of the value chain the standard explicitly requires the assessment of up- and downstream processes like the transport of raw-materials at the beginning or of the disposal of waste and the end of the value chain (including consideration of the product design). This covers the definition of lifecycles for products or services and the compilation of related legal provisions as well as an adequate communication-concept including goals and documentation.

In summary, the revision of the standard does not require drastic modifications to existing environmental management systems. Rather, organizations will have to determine whether they had already implemented the requirements that had been implicit in the current version of the standard, and take into account the fact that the scope of the organization has been broadened.

Further questions? Please do not hesitate to contact us.

About the Author

Dr. Thijs Willaert is Communications Manager at DQS-UL CFS GmbH

Leave a Comment

We would be glad to get your feedback. Take a moment to comment and tell us what you think.